COP21

What to expect from the UN's COP25 climate change conference

Conference Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at COP25 in Madrid, Spain
FlickrUnited Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
Conference Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Executive Secretary Patricia Espinosa at COP25 in Madrid, Spain

This article originally appeared on Ensia.

In 2015, 195 countries adopted an international treaty aiming to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above average preindustrial temperatures in order to avert the worst of Earth’s climate emergency.

How exactly will these countries implement that treaty, the Paris Agreement? That’s a key question for the thousands of people slated to attend the COP 25 negotiations, the 25th annual Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change that started this week in Spain despite a last-minute change of location from Chile to Spain. Representatives of countries around the world are preparing to negotiate rules for international carbon markets, finalize details on climate finance and ready the world for the crucial next decade of action on the climate crisis. Chilean environmental minister Carolina Schmidt will preside over the negotiations.

Double counting strikes back

According to Schmidt, "COP 25 will be the COP of implementation." The main goal is to fill in the legal and technical details of the Paris agreement. That work began at COP 24, held last year in Poland.

Left unresolved last year were the rules for voluntary carbon emissions markets, which would let nations meet their pledged emissions cuts by trading reductions with other countries. In a June interview, Schmidt said that these rules, covered under Article 6 of the Paris treaty, would be a major focus of COP 25.

Finishing the work of COP 24, this year’s negotiations should finalize the details of the Paris agreement. But consensus could be difficult to reach. During the last climate talks, according to Carbon Brief, draft rules for the carbon markets would have prohibited double counting of emissions, a scenario in which reductions would be counted by both the country that achieved them and the country purchasing those reductions as emissions offsets. But the delegation from Brazil rejected that prohibition, pushing the conversation off to this year.

Other issues

Other issues will be on the table, too. Countries at COP 25 will discuss details for climate finance to support countries designated as developing as they adapt to climate change and mitigate their carbon emissions.

Outside the halls of power, COP 25 could see street demonstrations and other protests. Last year’s talks coincided with protests worldwide, including 3,000 who marched in Katowice, Poland, where the talks were held.

U.S. diplomats will be among the negotiators — potentially for the last time. President Donald Trump notified the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) on Nov. 4 that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris agreement. The United States is scheduled be officially out of the deal by Nov. 4, 2020, less than a week before COP 26 will begin in Glasgow, Scotland. A U.S. delegation will still be invited to attend the conference — but not to negotiate, in an official capacity, the future of the Paris accord.